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Historical Newsletter

July 1998


Each year the Nebraska State Historical Society participates in National History Day: Nebraska. Students in grades six through twelve complete individual and group projects in several categories: exhibits, performance, media presentations, and research papers. Seven district contests are held across the state, from which winners move on to the state contest in Lincoln, and from there to the national contest in Washington, D.C.

Each year the Society presents a special award at the state contest for achievement in the area of Nebraska history. This certificate is accompanied by a monetary award of $100, as well as a complimentary one-year membership in the Society for the participating teacher. The 1998 award was divided into junior (grades six through eight) and senior (grades nine through twelve) divisions.

This year's Society awards went to two group media projects. In the junior division, the winners were Shawn Fricke, Amy Fricke, Kristina Lux, and Amelia Lux, of District No. 2, Glen Public Schools, in rural Sioux County. Their videotaped project was "Vikings in Nebraska," which dealt with Danish settlements in their part of Sioux County, and their sponsoring teacher was Moni Hourt. In the senior division, the winners were Laura Myers, Laurie Keogh, and Mackenzie Taylor of Stuart High School. Their slide presentation was "Kinkaiders: Settlers of the Sandhills." Their sponsoring teacher was Steve Lundeen.

Nearly two hundred students, parents, and teachers gathered at the State Capitol on May 15 for the second annual History Day Celebration. Winning state History Day students presented their entries before competing at the national competition in Washington D.C. in June. Richard Spencer, Paula Doe, and Deb Brownson of the State Historical Society, Jim Cook of the Lincoln Arts Council, Charlene Porsild of the UNL Center for Great Plains Studies, and Clark Whitehorn and Joe Steinbach of the University of Nebraska Press were on hand to critique these entries and offer professional advice as the students prepare for national competition.

At the awards ceremony state senators presented the state History Day winners with special plaques for display at their schools. Three special monetary awards were provided by the Center for Great Plains Studies, the Sentry Civil War Roundtable, and the Society. These monetary awards will help the students pay for their trips to Washington D.C. For more information about National History Day: Nebraska, contact the NSHS Education and Statewide Services Department, 402-471-2634.

(image) John Schleicher (second from left), NSHS Statewide Services, with junior division winners: Shawn Fricke, Amy Fricke, Kristina Lux, and Amelia Lux.

(image) Lawrence J. Sommer (left), NSHS director, and Senator Pam Brown (center) of Omaha present an award to Molly Reagan, a tenth grader at Duchesne Academy of Omaha. Molly won second place in the senior individual exhibits category.


You won't want to miss this year's annual meeting and history conference in Valentine. Centered in "Cowboy Country," the meeting features programs and tours relating to the history and landscapes of the Nebraska Sand Hills. Valentine will be holding its annual Old West Days the same weekend, providing additional opportunities to experience "Cowboy Country."

Conference attendees can explore the beauty of Nebraska's Niobrara River on a three-hour canoe trip from the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge to Smith Falls State Park. At the park, we will visit scenic Smith Falls, Nebraska's highest waterfall, and learn more about the environmental and historical significance of the Niobrara Valley. The fully-catered river trip will include transportation from Valentine, all canoeing equipment, and a boxed lunch.

Other conference events will include an "in character" presentation of the lifestyles of the buffalo hide hunters by historian and author T. Lindsay Baker. Samples of the intriguing foods of the hide men will be available for tasting. A book-signing, featuring books by Society authors and conference speakers, is also on the agenda.

Saturday activities include talks about early Sand Hills photographers, Sand Hills Archeology, the black 25th U.S. Infantry at Fort Niobrara, and the use of windmills on the Great Plains. Michael Allen, University of Washington-Tacoma, will present the keynote address at the luncheon entitled, "Politically Correct Rodeo Cowboys?" Society awards will also be presented.

The history conference concludes Saturday afternoon with tours of the site of Fort Niobrara (1880-1906), now a federal wildlife refuge, and Snake River Falls and the McKelvie Unit of the Nebraska National Forest.

Registration materials will be mailed to all Society members in September, but reserve the dates on your calendar now. The conference is open to the public. Please invite your friends.


In May the Nebraska State Historical Society purchased eight letters written by a Fort Kearny soldier. These are the only such original, Fort Kearny enlisted man's letters in our archives.

T. G. Thompson, the letters' author, apparently returned overland from an extended stay in California and reached Fort Kearny in the fall of 1860. On October 10 he wrote his parents in Illinois "a few lines to let you know of my whereabouts. I am here at Kearny. I have been here over 2 weeks. I have been sick most of the time."

By December his health had improved, and he informed his family of his recent enlistment in Company A of the Second U.S. Dragoons. A letter late in the month told that Thompson was "not doing much of any thing, but keep one horse clean and revolver and saber." Undoubtedly to his parents' dismay he observed, "I haft to say the Army is composed of the most low lived scoundrels in the world."

Providing a brief but engaging look at the life of an 1860s enlisted man, the Thompson letters conclude on July 5, 1861, after the commencement of the Civil War. Although he described the recent Independence Day celebrations at the post ("There was thirty four guns fired here yesterday and as many sky rockets in the evening"), Thompson's attention necessarily turned to the hostilities back East, where his unit would soon be sent, minus its commander. Capt. Richard H. Anderson had resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army.


Three new staff members are now working with Historical Society patrons: Mark Nelson, senior museum curator, Melissa Dirr, National Register coordinator, and Jessica Lilly, membership registrar. Nelson, a native of Wyoming, is a graduate of the University of Wyoming and previously worked at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and the Fort Bridger State Historic Site.

Melissa Dirr has a bachelor's degree in historic preservation and a master's degree in history with special focus in architectural history. She was National Register coordinator in South Dakota for three years and has also worked on contract for the City Planning Department of Omaha.

Jessica Lilly has joined the administration division as the membership registrar. Her responsibilities include all aspects of Society membership recordation.



A new exhibit of quilts from museum collections opened July 1 at the Museum of Nebraska History. Nebraska Quilts: A Patchwork History features twelve quilts spanning a century of Nebraska history, dating from the 1840s through the 1940s. Some of the quilts came west with their makers, while others were made in Nebraska.

Displays include the oldest surviving quilt known to have been created in Nebraska, a Wreath of Roses pattern made by Martha Allis Hollins in 1860, as well as a selection of crazy quilts, patchwork, and applique designs.

The highlight of the exhibit is Grace Snyder's famous Flower Basket Petit Point quilt, completed in 1943 and composed of more than 85,000 pieces. Snyder's quilt work is nationally known for its skill and complexity. She was inducted into the Congress of Quilters Hall of Fame in Arlington, Virginia, in 1980, and into the Nebraska Quilters Hall of Fame in 1986.

The exhibit continues through October 31, 1998. For more information on the quilt exhibit, contact Jessica C. Stoner at the Museum of Nebraska History office, 1-800-833-6747 or 402-471-4757 in Lincoln.

(image) Detail of a Nine Patch Variation Quilt made by Mary Lightfoot in 1846. The center of the quilt block incorporates fabric taken from a political bandanna from William Henry Harrison's 1840 presidential campaign.


By Cindy Drake, Library Curator

The National Genealogical Society 1998 Conference in the States (Part 1)

The National Genealogical Society 1998 Conference in the States was held in Denver, Colorado, May 6-9, with a preconference for genealogy librarians on May 5. The preconference was held at the new (opened 1995) Central Library of the Denver Public Library. DPL's Western History and Genealogy Department (which was merged in January 1995) has world-renowned collections of books, journals, newspapers, photographs, maps, art, and manuscripts that chronicle the American West. The Gates Western History Reading Room and the O'Fallon Genealogy Reading Room are located on the fifth floor. The Genealogy Reading Room is a regional center for research, with resources on a variety of ethnic groups. The collection is considered one of the top ten genealogical resources in the United States.

The conference was held at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver with more than 1,400 in attendance. The programs covered a variety of genealogical topics. I will attempt to review in two columns some of the highlights of the four-day conference.

Barbara Renick (coauthor of a book titled The Internet For Genealogists: A Beginner's Guide) in her program, "How Computers Are Changing Genealogical Research," explained how the survey, research, evaluation, and publication phases of genealogical research are changing with the use of computers. From her handout in the NGS syllabus she stated that genealogists can now divide their hobby and/or profession into two historical eras: B.C. ("Before Computers") and A.D ("After Disks"). She commented that over three thousand libraries in Germany are now online.

I attended two presentations, both excellent, by Richard S. Wilson. His programs were titled "Managing Your Research with a Computer" and "Comparing Genealogical Software." In the latter he compared the features of all the major genealogy programs now available. If you can't decide which software to purchase for your genealogical material check his web site at <http://www.compuology.com/ngs98/>. Both of his programs are online. He plans to update the software information regularly.

Sharon Boatwright presented "Tots to Teens: Genealogy and Genealogical Sources." Sharon specializes in genealogy for young people. She is a retired teacher and a member of the National Genealogical Society Youth Resources Committee. She gave me more ideas and titles to share with teachers in the state regarding the use of family history in the classroom.

While in Denver, I visited the Colorado Historical Society Stephen H. Hart Library and the Colorado State Archives. Besides the Denver Public Library, these are two other repositories you should visit if you are researching Colorado ancestors. All three locations are within a few blocks of each other. Before visiting the Hart Library contact them for the "Brief Overview" to familiarize you with their collection. Their address is 1300 Broadway, Denver CO 80203-2137. The State Archives has a booklet titled "Researching the Colorado State Archives." Their address is Division of State Archives and Public Records, Centennial Building, Room 1B-20, 1313 Sherman Street, Denver CO 80203.

An advantage of attending a large genealogical convention is the number of vendors you can visit to catch up on new ideas, books, and software in the field of genealogy. There were almost one hundred vendors at the conference. A Computer Learning Center was available with documentation and volunteers to help with various genealogical software programs. Demonstrations by program experts were provided as well. Another area that interested me was the number of original records now being scanned and made available on CD-ROM. One company is marketing census records. Their major concentration at this time is the 1850 census.

There were several programs on the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and the history of the Civil War. Again, there are numerous sites on the web to help with your research. Two general sources given in the NGS syllabus, from a program given by Pamela Boyer Porter titled "The Civil War in the American West," are: Civil War Soldiers System <http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/> and U.S. Civil War Center <http://www.cwc.lsu.edu/civlink.htm>.

By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

The following are high priority titles we wish to purchase for the library. The title and author are given, along with the approximate price (including postage if known). Members are encouraged to donate funds toward the purchase. Please direct monetary donations to me with a note on your check specifying "L/A Wish List" to alert our accounting staff.

African Americans in the West: A Bibliography of Secondary Sources, compiled by Bruce A. Glasrud, Center for Big Bend Studies, 1998. $23.

The Black West: A Documentary and Pictorial History of the African American Role in the Westward Expansion of the United States: With a New Introduction, by William L. Katz, Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster, 1996. $14.

Buffalo Bill: Myth and Reality by Eric V. Sorg, Johnson Books, 1998. $14.45.

Burning the Hymnal: The Uncollected Poems of William Kloefkorn, A Slow Tempo Press. $13.95.

By Grit & Grace: Eleven Women Who Shaped the American West, edited by Glenda Riley and Richard W. Etulain, Fulcrum Publishing, 1997. $26.95.


July 11: Grand Opening of Cotesfield Post Office, 12 P.M., Historical Village, Sixth and Indian streets, Cotesfield. For information contact Howard County Historical Society, P.O. Box 304, St. Paul NE 68873.

July 16: Brown Bag Lecture, by Paul Eisloeffel, curator of manuscripts and audio-visual collections, NSHS Library/Archives Division. "Film Making in Nebraska: The Early Years." 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

July 25: Collectors' Saturday Lecture Series, by Nancy Kirk and Diane Russell Harbison. "Quilts," 10 A.M., Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, 1326 South 32nd St., Omaha. Free and open to the public. To schedule a twenty-minute appointment with speaker ($25 fee), call 402-595-1180. Appointments can be scheduled between l:30 and 4 P.M.

August 4, 6: Quilting on the Prairie. NSHS summer workshop for kids (ages ten through twelve). For information call Jessica C. Stoner, museum office, 1-800-833-6747 or 402-471-4757 in Lincoln.

August 8: Rim of the Prairie Days, Bess Streeter Aldrich House and Museum, 204 East F St., Elmwood NE 68349. For information call 402-994-3855.

August 9: Quilt Day, 1:30 to 5 P.M., Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Quilt "show and tell," scavenger hunt for kids, and slide presentation. For information call Jessica C. Stoner, as above.

August 10, 11, 13: Adventures in Architecture. NSHS summer workshop for kids (ages ten through twelve). For information call Jessica C. Stoner, as above.

August 12: Haymarket Mystery. NSHS summer workshop for kids (ages ten through twelve). For information call Jessica C. Stoner, as above.

August 20: Brown Bag Lecture, by Joe DeFilipps, Lexington, Nebraska. "Nebraska Railroad Depots: Yesterday and Today." 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

August 22: Collectors' Saturday Lecture Series, by Andrea Faling and Ronna Rivers. "Postcards," 10 A.M., Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, 1326 South 32nd St., Omaha. Free and open to the public. To schedule a twenty-minute appointment with speaker ($25 fee), call 402-595-1180. Appointments can be scheduled between l:30 and 4 P.M.

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Last updated 10 July 1998

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